Commentary on a Letter Simon Wolf To Boston Post 1868


To the Editor of the Boston Transcript:

In the Boston Post of Wednesday an article appeared headed "Grant and the Jewish Vote," signed by "Max." I do not know who Max is, whether he is an Israelite or a Mohammedan, not being material; but to his conclusions I entirely object, as being illogical, erroneous, and decidedly anti-Jewish.
No one, even the General, denies that the order was proscriptive, but in one sense not uncalled for. The General never meant then, since, or now, to proscribe the Jews because they were such, but simply to banish from his camp the Lazzaroni who infested it. Unfortunately the order was ill-worded, but that is no reason why American citizens should be betrayed from their allegiance to principles, and turn to a party that advocated the reverse of what is right and true.

Wolf begins by asserting that the orders of General Grant were not meant to target the Jews in any way but were meant to get rid of the problem at hand. He attributes the confusion to bad wording. He also asserts that never the less one badly worded order should not be the reason for voting for the "pro slavery party"

I protest in the name of enlightened Judaism against this dragooning system and continually harping on the "old ancient grudge. We are not Jews in any political sense. We are, what is of far more value. American citizens, and as such can and will vote for the candidate of our party, be that Grant or Seymour. The ages of persecution have passed into oblivion, but the lessons taught have not been lost, for we know that here, free as the air, we breathe, We worship God according to the dictates of conscience, that we owe no allegiance to class, and that the fostering of prejudice and the accursed spirit of exclusiveness that have marked our race should cease and forever. Being detrimental to the development of free thought and true progress.
Accursed will be the day when Jews as a class commit the of unpardonable crime of being sectarian in their politics. Know-Nothings among Americans. If such a thing should come to pass I wish to place my protest on record, for no matter how much of an error Gen. Grant or anyone else may have committed, I will not forget what I owe the country that has fostered and protected me in the exercise of free thought. I will not forget that if oppression and prejudice have overtaken us, they were mainly attributable to the very sectarian spirit that is here sought to be perpetuated. You, Mr. Max. or any other Israelite. can in your individual capacity as American citizens, vote, and speak against Gen. Grant—that is one of your inalienable rights and privileges; but forbear to use it in a religious sense.

Here Wolf makes a comparison of how a Jew worships God to how a Jew should vote, with out on conscious not according to social class or other factors. Wolf also uses very strong language cursing the day when Jews vote according to their religion.

I know General Grant and his motives, have corresponded on this very subject, and assert unhesitatingly that he never intended to insult any honorable Jew, that he never thought of their religion; that order was simply directed "against certain evil designing persons, who respected neither law nor order, and who were endangering the morale Of the army." General Grant is not the only man who, during the war, committed wrongs against the holiest rights. Fremont, Burnside, even the lamented Lincoln, were not free from them, and congress had to legalize, subsequently, acts performed against the plainest rules Of law and justice ; but the emergencies Of the time made them and necessary, and an Anglo-Saxon race, ever ready to defend their principles, suffered these wrongs because they were necessary to the preservation of the Republic. Having lived in Washington for the last Six years I know how many of our people were indifferent to the cause and how many Only cared for the spoils. This they had, however, in Common With Other persons and I took to defend my race against cruel aspirations and uncalled for prejudice; but yet I could not shut my eyes to the fact that hundreds infested the camps who were spies, blockade runners, etc, Who, owing no allegiance to the government, having ever a passport near, endangered the army, laughed at army regulations and orders, and when caught attempted to bribe their Way to freedom. This was a State Of things highly demoralizing . and the General in a moment of just indignation, in an hour Of great peril, issued this order, never contemplating any wrong against honest patriotic Jewish-American This order never harmed me never harmed any one, not even in thought, except those whom we as Jews despise and hold in contempt.

Through this paragraph Wolf tries to assert that the situation in the war camp when Order Number 11 was ordered was bad and Grant needed to fix it and was not thinking of hurting other Jewish-Americans. It is interesting how here Wolf uses the term Jewish-American instead of the using the term American-Jew which corresponds more to his argument.

It would be perfect folly to suppose for a moment that the Jews have found in Grant another Titus. For he is fully aware of the noble deeds performed by thousands of Jewish privates, and hundreds of Jewish officers during the late war: and I know that some or his warmest friends, even in Washington, are Jews. The bugbear of what he may do when he becomes President is childish. He will do his duty as the law and the will of the people, through their chosen representatives, prescribe; no more no less. This great love, all at once exhibited by the Democratic, party or any other party.
This great tolerance prated about by Christians for Jews, is simply absurd. We are not Jews except to God; we are to the country what Mr. Smith Mr. Jones or Mr. Brown are citizens. We seek no tolerance from anyone, in this age of progress and ennobling humanity. Tolerance is for slaves, not for Americans.

This phrase, "Tolerance is for slaves, not for Americans" is very interesting

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Boston, August (i, 1868.

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